Brunswick Development

Tom Nevers

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There are a handful of larger projects in Brunswick under construction or moving through the planning process. Below are renderings of two of the more interesting projects planned for downtown.

This condo project at 36 Pleasant St. would create 6 condos on an oversized lot and reduce the number of apartments in the existing structure from 3 to 2. It's received a certificate of approval from the Village Review Board and the Planning Board appears receptive to the proposal. Overall, I think it's a nice infill project a short walk from the supermarket, train, bus, library, restaurants, Bowdoin, etc.

New structure in the middle as seen from Union St.
View attachment 36 Pleasant From Union.jpg

A seen from Pleasant St.
View attachment 36 Pleasant from Pleasant.jpg

The second project is an expansion of the Tontine Mall located downtown near Maine and School Streets. This project will make architectural changes to the first floor and two stories containing 16 apartments will be constructed on top of the existing structure. This project is also in a highly walkable area which makes it all the more unfortunate that an adjacent structure will be demolished to crete additional parking. Reportedly, the building to be demolished, a duplex at 11 School St, is in rough shape. Even with the demolition, this will be a nice addition to Brunswick. This project has also received a certificate of approval from the Village Review Board and doesn't appear to be encountering resistance from the Planning Board.

As seen from School
View attachment Tontine from School.jpg
 

Tom Nevers

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The Apartments at Brunswick Landing is a proposed development consisting of nine apartment buildings with a total of 108 dwelling units and a club house. The development is along Admiral Fitch Ave on a former naval airbase. This proposal is pretty far along in the process and tomorrow night the Planning Board will decide whether the application for Final Plan Major Development Review is complete and take public comment.

Proposed Building Design
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Proposed Layout
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While it's nice to see new housing in Brunswick, this project embodies many of the disappointing aspects of development in what could be a really great area. Like most of the existing development at Brunswick Landing, this project has a deep setback. Admittedly, that isn't entirely the developer's fault. Brunswick requires a setback of at least 15' in this area but the setback here appears to be at least double that resulting in a deeply suburban feel. Exacerbating that is the creation of 172 parking spaces, more than what is required by zoning standards, dozens of which will be visible from the sidewalk and road. Zoning in this area does allow mixed-use development so it's disappointing they didn't incorporate some ground floor retail. This is a walkable and highly bikable area featuring nice trails and bike lanes as well as nearby supermarkets, employers, schools, etc. The development does little to enhance the environment for pedestrians and cyclists and, instead, continues the trend toward more autocentric development of the old airbase.

Again, nice to see new housing but the old airbase really has the potential to be something special in Maine. The area could be dense, mixed-use, cater to pedestrians and cyclists and function as a second downtown. Given that, it would be great to see more inspired development in this area. For reference, check this document created a few years prior to the closing of the base out- https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...1cf80a1b5f4193d28/1454616138391/Brunswick.pdf
 

Cosakita18

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God that 3-story apartment design is popping up like a weed all over the Portland area. These buildings look identical to the multifamily units at Blue Spruce Farm in Westbrook and the Cumberland Foreside development.
 

Tom Nevers

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A four story, nine unit building is proposed for the vacant corner of Mill and Union in downtown Brunswick. The building would feature enclosed, first floor parking and a rooftop terrace.

This is a good infill proposal on what could be perceived as a difficult lot given its proximity to Route 1. Although it's disappointing there is no first floor commercial, given that most of the buildings from Union to Maine have first floor businesses, this would be a nice addition to the urban fabric. Route 1 aside, this is a highly walkable area that is just a few blocks down Union from the condo project at Pleasant and Union described in the first post in this thread

New construction in Brunswick's downtown is limited to 40' so the proposed structure is really making the most what's possible with this lot.

.Left Elevation.jpg

Front Elevation.jpg
 

Tom Nevers

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The Apartments at Brunswick Landing is a proposed development consisting of nine apartment buildings with a total of 108 dwelling units and a club house. The development is along Admiral Fitch Ave on a former naval airbase. This proposal is pretty far along in the process and tomorrow night the Planning Board will decide whether the application for Final Plan Major Development Review is complete and take public comment.

Proposed Building Design
View attachment 6460

Proposed Layout
View attachment 6461

While it's nice to see new housing in Brunswick, this project embodies many of the disappointing aspects of development in what could be a really great area. Like most of the existing development at Brunswick Landing, this project has a deep setback. Admittedly, that isn't entirely the developer's fault. Brunswick requires a setback of at least 15' in this area but the setback here appears to be at least double that resulting in a deeply suburban feel. Exacerbating that is the creation of 172 parking spaces, more than what is required by zoning standards, dozens of which will be visible from the sidewalk and road. Zoning in this area does allow mixed-use development so it's disappointing they didn't incorporate some ground floor retail. This is a walkable and highly bikable area featuring nice trails and bike lanes as well as nearby supermarkets, employers, schools, etc. The development does little to enhance the environment for pedestrians and cyclists and, instead, continues the trend toward more autocentric development of the old airbase.

Again, nice to see new housing but the old airbase really has the potential to be something special in Maine. The area could be dense, mixed-use, cater to pedestrians and cyclists and function as a second downtown. Given that, it would be great to see more inspired development in this area. For reference, check this document created a few years prior to the closing of the base out- https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...1cf80a1b5f4193d28/1454616138391/Brunswick.pdf
Construction is moving exceptionally fast on this project. As @Cosakita18 noted, the design of the buildings is rather standard but I do appreciate that they’re varying the color of the siding. I’m a sucker for black and charcoal exteriors!
I remain disappointed by the suburban layout of development at Brunswick Landing. Even so, it is more bike and pedestrian friendly than many areas of Maine.
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TC_zoid

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This looks like dormitories or military housing. Can't an arch firm put in some effort into looking at how the Scandinavians do this idea? And city planning departments are even worse. We know why it gets built. Developers don't want to spend any additional money or time, so this is what you get. It will become low cost neglected housing for the next generation.
 

TC_zoid

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https://www.multifamilyexecutive.co...rries-urban-excitement-and-nature-in-sweden_o

Architecture does not have to cost substantially more to be good. Creativity and ingenuity can compensate, and if that is a challenge, then pull ideas from the existing (link). The arch firm and developer on this project has NONE. Brunswick is within national awareness because of Bowdoin College. (I'm now shaking my head.) Good architecture becomes the framework for improving the quality of experience for the inhabitants. This is no better than public housing created in the 60's, and we all know what that turned into.
 
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mainejeff

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The U.S. in general has fallen so far behind many other parts of the world in many areas....including architecture and sustainable living.....it's embarrassing. We're all too busy fighting each other on social media to be bothered with real world important stuff.
 

cneal

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These types of 12-unit buildings - I've been calling them quadruple triple-deckers - have been popping up all over southern Maine in the last decade. There are a bunch in Westbrook as part of the "Blue Spruce Farm" development, a large cluster of them got built a few years ago next to the Jetport in South Portland's Brick Hill, they're building more at Scarborough Downs, and there are numerous others that have gone up elsewhere in smaller developments.

I have a hunch that they're cheap to build with a very efficient floorplan (4 units per floor with essentially no interior hallways except the stairs), and may be cheaper to permit because of the standardized design. In other words, the low cost of the architecture on these is probably a significant part of why so many of them are being built (and why they're relatively affordable, without public subsidies).
 

cneal

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Here's a photo of the "Carriage Walk Apartments" in Scarborough Downs (built last year). Look familiar?

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nomc

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Good architecture becomes the framework for improving the quality of experience for the inhabitants.
Agreed. I drove through the Carriage Walk Apartments a few months ago and was immediately depressed. Good design - not just in architecture - improves the experience of the community.
 

Tom Nevers

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This looks like dormitories or military housing. Can't an arch firm put in some effort into looking at how the Scandinavians do this idea? And city planning departments are even worse. We know why it gets built. Developers don't want to spend any additional money or time, so this is what you get. It will become low cost neglected housing for the next generation.
It’s funny you mention dormitories and a Scandinavian aesthetic. I rather like the new dorms at Bowdoin and think they have a sort of Nordic vibe.
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Tom Nevers

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The U.S. in general has fallen so far behind many other parts of the world in many areas....including architecture and sustainable living.....it's embarrassing. We're all too busy fighting each other on social media to be bothered with real world important stuff.
Not disagreeing with your assertion about architecture and sustainable living and the design- both the architecture and placement on the lot- is lacking but from a sustainability perspective, these units do allow for mostly car free living. It’s an easy walk to Shaw’s and a new Hannaford is under construction that is even closer. Residents are a couple blocks from UMA Brunswick and the SMCC Midcoast campus. Over 2000 jobs are located on Brunswick Landing that can be easily accessed from these rather bland apartments. Also, there are cyclist and pedestrian only trails on the base along with bike lanes. The bus route is currently being reviewed and, I believe, will be providing enhanced service to the Landing.

Obviously, there is more to sustainability than ditching your car but transportation is the largest single source of greenhouse gases in the USA.

The conversation here reminds me of a theme from Dostoevsky’s novel Demons. As stated by a character in that book, “he loudly and firmly proclaimed that boots are lower than Pushkin,” and while we’d all prefer a happy merging of form and function, when you don’t have boots, or in this case safe, affordable housing, what’s the value of an unobtainable home designed by Gaudi?

All things considered, these aren’t great, they could have been a lot better, but they provide needed new housing in Brunswick and Maine. Also of note, these buildings are being constructed on land that two single family homes were previously on. I’d call this an improvement.
 
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Cosakita18

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These types of 12-unit buildings - I've been calling them quadruple triple-deckers - have been popping up all over southern Maine in the last decade. There are a bunch in Westbrook as part of the "Blue Spruce Farm" development, a large cluster of them got built a few years ago next to the Jetport in South Portland's Brick Hill, they're building more at Scarborough Downs, and there are numerous others that have gone up elsewhere in smaller developments.

I have a hunch that they're cheap to build with a very efficient floorplan (4 units per floor with essentially no interior hallways except the stairs), and may be cheaper to permit because of the standardized design. In other words, the low cost of the architecture on these is probably a significant part of why so many of them are being built (and why they're relatively affordable, without public subsidies).
All these projects have been developed and built by Risbara Construction. This "fat triple decker" design must be an easy template the company developed internally.

Not only is is cheap and easy to build, it feels like it's also designed to be "inoffensive" and fit into the suburban environment (and relatively strict zoning) of southern Maine without a lot of backlash about "scale" and "character" that usually accompanies multifamily projects in predominantly single-family communities.
 
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TC_zoid

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The new Bowdoin dorms (apartments) look great. Their new Roux Center is also cool. Both have been designed with the human experience in mind. But of course, Bowdoin has to use a higher design aesthetic with anything it builds because of who they are -- a top small college with thinking as their business. Yes, I now relent, let the huddled masses be.
 
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Tom Nevers

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Pictures taken today of the additional stories being constructed on the Tontine Mall.
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W-4

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I came across some early concepts for changes to the Route 1 corridor in Brunswick, which include:
  • Adding a circular roundabout to the Route 95 exit, with hopes to slow down speed at conflict points.
  • Adding a second right turn lane going from Mill Street southbound to Pleasant Street westbound.
  • Adding a second left turn lane going from Pleasant Street eastbound to Mill Street northbound.
  • Adding sensors to traffic lights on Pleasant St, and synchronizing them.
  • Extending turner street to Stanwood St, which should divert some traffic away from the Mill St intersection.
  • LED street lights.
  • More crosswalks.
  • Add left turn lanes to the River Rd intersection.
  • Connecting River Rd directly to Church Rd via Westminster Ave.
Sources:
Screenshots of the interesting bits:
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Tom Nevers

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The concepts presented are pretty uninspired and likely to cement outer Pleasant as an auto-dominated space for decades to come.

Instead of a solution (in the form of a roundabout) in search of a problem, we should be building a generously sized multi use path along outer Pleasant. Pairing that with one of the few good ideas presented, reducing curb cuts, and then eliminating the zoning standards that all but require strip style development might help to make the area a space people want to be, rather than just travel through.

It’s a gateway into Brunswick and it could hardly be less Pleasant. They even got the basics, like having crosswalks at all the intersections, wrong. There’s been a lot of input from people who want better bike and ped features but you wouldn’t know it from the plan presented.
 

W-4

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I agree that it would be nice for an area this close to downtown to be less car-choked, but the only way to make that happen is to get Route 1 thru-traffic to go somewhere else. I can think of a few crazy pitches, but I'm doubtful that the political will exists for any of them:
  • Add a congestion toll on this section of Route 1.
    • Won't be popular with local drivers.
    • Won't be popular with local businesses that rely on pit stops and drive thru traffic.
    • Might be illegal since Route 1 is a federal highway.
  • Get rid of the 95 exit to Pleasant St.
    • Might be popular with local residents,who complain that the thru-traffic ought to go around via 196. I remember hearing this from multiple residents during a town meeting, but I can't find the YouTube video any more.
    • Still won't be popular with local auto-dependent businesses.
  • Move the northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp to River Rd.
Remember, the businesses along this road include McDonald's, multiple car dealerships, a rental car location, Dunkin Donuts, a car wash, multiple gas stations, mechanics, and the police station. These services all rely on easy road access and/or car and truck traffic. Trying to make this area less auto-dependent basically means nuking the area and starting from scratch.

Related note: The town really screwed itself by building the police station right up to the corner of the intersection. A roundabout is infeasible now without huge land takings. It would have been great for handling the left turns and for calming traffic, but that's out the window now. This was also covered in the town meeting video that I can't find.
 
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